We now move on to part two of our step-by-step outline of why Illinois 14th Congressional Democratic nominee, Lauren Underwood, will lose in November.
3. Believe that endorsements matter
They don’t! And that’s especially true when those endorsements come from other politicians or political/social groups. In fact, getting the general election nod from an elected official, a labor union, or an activist group is far more likely to do harm than good.
Meanwhile, newspaper endorsements matter only in as far as they motivate your team, demoralize your opponent(s), and they kinda look good on a mailer. But as local papers rapidly fade and consistently mangle the process, those endorsements mean less and less.
Despite this stark reality, 90 percent of candidates spend more time securing this senseless support than knocking on voters’ doors. In light of the vagaries of voter support, perhaps it’s the instant gratification fix this kind of overt acknowledgement provides.
Think about it! Underwood recently boasted she’s backed by:
- Planned Parenthood
- Move On
- Sierra Club
- The Collective
- The Resurgent Left
- Dick Durbin
- Kamala Harris
- Elizabeth Warren
While those endorsements might be an interesting primary factor, does anyone really believe those groups/elected officials would ever back incumbent Republican Randy Hultgren? So, what’s the point? In a general election, district voters are all that matter.
4. Start believing the choir
Sadly, it’s as natural as breathing.
Running a Congressional campaign is the kind of slog that wears you down by degrees every single day. To make matters worse, you have to have to develop a skin thick enough to deflect the slings and arrows of your opponent(s) and their supporters.
Then the candidate hosts a rally or fundraiser where every last attendee extolls their vast virtue and hangs on your every word. And that, my friends, becomes more addictive than getting endorsements.
The more campaign weary they become, the more candidates seek refuge in the choir which, when you’re in the minority district party, is a huge mistake. Candidates certainly need to stick to their basic plan, like flying a plane, a campaign is constant series of fine to medium adjustments. But making those shifts is far more difficult when candidates consistently court a chorus who convince them they can do no wrong.
Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham put it best when he said, “Always run scared!” That doesn’t mean reacting to every setback with shrieking and howling. It’s something more along the lines of former Cy Young award winner Steve Stone stating that, “Any man with a bat in his hands is dangerous.”
It means taking nothing for granted.
Yet, if you respond to Underwood’s silly social media declarations in the most mildly critical way, her choir descends upon you like flies, and her team does nothing to stop them.
Yes! Her sweeping primary victory was a surprise. But in retrospect, when you add up her six opponents, most of whom I saw speak, none of them were capable of running a successful city council campaign, much less a Congressional effort.
As I like to say in my impending book, “Never mistake a tailwind for talent!”
5. Alienate swing voters
Underwood’s charisma might just be enough to mitigate every factor we’ve discussed, but with a phantom blue wave, this is the mistake she can’t overcome. And it goes back to our need to appeal to leaning Republicans to win point.
If you’re not going to court swing voters, then minimally make every effort not to antagonize them. Let’s take another look at some of the endorsements Underwood so boldly broadcasts:
Do I have to tell you they’re one of the most hotly debated groups in these partisan times?
Almost as divisive as Planned Parenthood. They even make this liberal cringe. George W. Bush was Hitler?
Leaning Republicans are not generally fans of labor unions.
I am all for putting more black folks in office, but most white folks in the 14th are not.
The Resurgent Left
Do I really need to add anything here?
He’s so unpopular in Illinois that Jim Oberweis came with 10 points of beating him.
I love her, but leaning Republicans do not!
The irony is, while these folks won’t get Underwood a single vote she wouldn’t already get, they will cost her votes among the group she needs the most. I’m no fan of Hultgren, but when I look at that list I start thinking Libertarian.
“But Jeff! Are you really saying that Lauren Underwood should sell her soul to get elected?” No! But when your wife asks if those pants make your butt look big, do you really think it’s a good idea to slap a “wide load” sign on her behind?
Just like music requires the silence between the notes, true political campaigning is the art of knowing when not to speak and when not to act. We’re I Ms. Underwood, I would’ve kept all of those recommendations to myself.
On the other hand, if I’m Randy Hultgren, I’ll broadcast those endorsements even more that Ms. Underwood might! Once again, Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth was dead on when she warned Democrats not to give in to their left-most element last Sunday.
Adding up everything we discussed, and I clearly see Underwood making a concession speech on November 6th.
Could she win? Of course! I was wrong about Trump’s campaign. But this kind of thing is much more quantifiable at the local level. Perhaps a blue wave will materialize. Maybe Hispanics will finally vote. And Trump is always capable of doing something really stupid before the election
But counting on electoral magic is almost always the quickest way to defeat. And even if that magic materializes like it did for Bill Foster, Underwood will serve all of one term.